The wisdom of pop songs – Heartbroken

The human condition explained in three-minute bursts

The world is full of sad songs, because sadness is an emotion that makes people want to write, to pour it all out. And as listeners, consumers, we have an insatiable appetite for hearing about it.

But what makes a great sad song stand out is the raw, painful, avert-your-eyes reaction it evokes in us. When Neil Diamond said something to the effect that his best songs were embarrassing for him  to listen to because they were so real, he was talking about You Don’t Bring me Flowers, his duet with Barbra Streisand, which deals with taking a partner for granted.

A real heartbreak song takes it one step further as the writer and singer reveal insecurities, fears, inadequacies and all the rotten infrastructure of our character that we would rather people didn’t see.

Amy Winehouse’s problems were public knowledge long before she died, her susceptibility to alcohol and drugs compounded by her relationship with an equally vulnerable man, a classic bad influence who not only caused her emotional distress and encouraged her substance abuse but accompanied her down the dark roads to which that led.

Back to Black is a typical piece of Winehouse bravado, making light of situations before revealing the damage they did her.

Unlike many people, I don’t claim she had the greatest soul voice, but she did have a way of wearing her heart on her sleeve that leaves us smeared in the blood it sheds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJAfLE39ZZ8https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJAfLE39ZZ8

In the early 1960s Roy Orbison produced some very affecting, very real material, his rich timbre and mountainous range taking us over the edge of melodrama and into the real stuff.

It’s Over and Crying both hit us like a policeman’s early morning knock at the door which can only mean bad news.

While these seem completely genuine, there is also room here for products of the songwriter’s and singer’s craft, and the dream team of  writer Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, to whom he entrusted the song, make Until You Come Back To Me a chillingly beautiful experience. Aretha seems almost unfairly gifted with her voice; she hasn’t suffered more than everyone else, it  just sounds like that. Her sublime talent is as an interpreter of songs, and when Stevie Wonder called her one night and said he had a song for her, she said “I’ll take it,” without even hearing it. When the author of My Cherie Amour offers you a peach, you have no doubt that it’s going to be sweet.

Compare and contrast Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, in which, whatever the title might suggest, he plainly isn’t that bothered. Irish songstress Mary Coughlan  (see pic at top), whom fame has passed by, took the song, slowed it down and injected some emotion, but it still really just talks the talk rather than walking the walk.

Rickie Lee Jones is an interesting character, her early tomboy front masking a fragility that exists for real in her character as well as her work. Company is an achingly intimate account of the loneliness she knows is about to envelop her as this man leaves her for good. She’s not suicidal, but she is looking forward to seeing him again on the other side.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG0zxxzvyYEhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG0zxxzvyYE

Prince and Sinead O’Connor might have seemed an unlikely pairing until she took on Nothing Compares 2 U, but his ability to write direct from the tatters of his heart combined perfectly with her willingness to wash her dirty laundry in public to produce a timeless piece of heartache. Seven hours and fifteen days has now grown to more than 27 years, but it still feels like a kick in the guts from someone you’ve  given your heart to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB1TKw8_b1shttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB1TKw8_b1s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Mona Lisa Smile

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

You could say this is a chick flick if you like but I reckon it stands up pretty well in any company? just because it’s a mainly female cast with lots of pretty young things don’t mean it ain’t got a brain just like the girls themselves.

It stars Julia Roberts as Katherine Watson an art lecturer at a posh all girl college in Massachusetts she’s from California which makes her a bit of a rebel they think and this is her first lecturing job and she ain’t the type to conform so she’s out of place at this stuffy erstablishme… whatever.  Plus she’s 30 and not married and this is the 1950s so there all wearing dresses and long skirts and blouses quite a nice look I always think although I don’t go in for skirts much myself who does these days.

It’s a bitchy class she finds herself teaching there all dead keen and know everything on the syllabus which is like a list of what their going to study so she has to get onto things their not expecting to wipe the smug smiles off there faces. The worst of all is the Kirsten Dunst character I won’t bother with the film names cos its too confusing Kirsten is a real spoilt upper class cow and the funny thing is there all at this college but there also trying to get married its like a competition almost and Kirsten is with this real posh dickhead whose going to be rich and he already is because of his family but he’s a pipe smoking serious type old before his time.

Kirsten actually takes time off college to get married have a honeymoon and expects that will just be okay but Katherine’s not impressed. And of course dickhead isn’t as good as he makes out always disappearing to New York “on business” ha ha were not stupid are we girls.

The school nurse gets sacked for giving out contraceptives and that tells you a lot about the place. And theres a male lecturer Dominic West who has affairs with his students you’ll know him if you watched The Affair on Netflix he’s English but gets a lot of work in the States. He is currantly bonking Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character she’s a bit of a tart but he fancies Katherine too but she’s having none of it and then her long-term on-off boyfriend shows up from California and thinks he can breeze in and marry her but she’s a modern girl and sends him packing.

There are other bits of the story with other girls and its too complicated to tell you you don’t need to know anyway but my favourite is Ginnifer Goodwin yes that’s how she spells it and she’s not quite as gorgeous as the rest still pretty good looking but a bit round faced and could get fat later in life and she’s a nice character too.

Maggie thinks she’s Sherlock Homes and that’s Ginnifer in the middle Julia Stiles right

You know what films about uni and college are like when the lecturer turns out to be a real nice guy (or gal) and they all end up liking each other in the end well I suppose this one is like that but its wrong to lump it in with crap films that have the same theme this one is real class and Julia Roberts is good so is Maggie so is Kirsten there all great really and its not soppy at all.

 

 

The wisdom of pop songs – Revenge and vitriol

It’s the ugliest of emotions and completely fruitless. It makes us as bad as the person we’re getting back at. It leads to ongoing conflict. Revenge isn’t sweet, it’s sour. It just feels sweet briefly. And it makes for great little pop songs sometimes.

Connie Francis had a hit in 1958 with Who’s Sorry Now, which had first been published (in the old sheet music days) in the 1920s. She’s glad that her ex is sorry, so she’s got her own back in a tame way. We don’t learn what has happened to the man who broke her heart, but he’s not happy, and that makes her feel better, even if you get the feeling she’ll be round at his door within the hour with a tin of tomato soup and some ice cream to cheer him up.

The Ronettes got slightly more vitriolic with How Does It Feel, written by Vini Poncia and Peter Andreoli and produced by Phil Spector in a rare example of an uptempo wall of sound recording. Some girl has broken her ex’s heart and she’s as pleased as punch, but unlike Connie Francis, she openly admits she’d take him back because he still loves him. Silly girl; he’ll only do it again, you mark my words.

The Angels were in a very different situation in 1963 with My Boyfriend’s Back. He’s been away, you see, and in his absence a boy who fancies her, having failed with his advances, is spreading rumours about her. But now the boyfriend has returned and is about to give the young pretender a bunch of fives.

The Angels were unusual for a Sixties girl group in that they were white – not that colour has any bearing on what they were like as a musical unit. But it was the song, not the singers, and they are one-hit wonders – and there’s nothing wrong with that. A nifty little three minutes of pop and very singable: Hey la hey la, my boyfriend’s back.

All of these revenge songs seem to be from the early 60s, and we’ll continue with The Shirelles and Foolish Little Girl. It’s not openly about revenge, but a girl talking to another girl who wants her guy back, having dumped him earlier. Now he’s about to get married and she’s a jealous as hell. The singer is berating her for this, which leads me to read between the lines and surmise that there is history between these two and the singer is glad her rival has been hurt.

Whatever, this is a classic lineup of four black women. The lead singer has a good, strong voice and the backing vocals sound like they’re done by a bunch of random girls dragged off the street as they walked past the studio and told to do their best and do it loudly. And I mean that in the nicest possible way – it’s part of the record’s charm.

Incidentally, if you’re going to download this from YouTube or wherever, make sure you get the original version. There’s a rerecorded one out there, and I wish they wouldn’t do that. Sure, singers may improve as they get older and recording techniques are constantly evolving, but the artistes never recapture the magic, and if they’re eradicating some blemish that’s been bugging them for years, they should realize that we, the fans, know and love it just as it is.

John Lennon, for all his peace-and-love stuff, had a nasty jealous streak and wasn’t averse to venting it in song. Take You Can’t Do That, from A Hard Day’s Night. He’s not taking revenge – yet – but he’s telling the girl in no uncertain terms that he’s going to dump her if she persists in talking to a particular boy.

The live recording I’m putting here is pretty faithful to the studio version but there’s one irritating thing: they don’t show us who played the solo. It doesn’t appear to be George, which means it must be John, but we don’t know for sure.

And that’s where I’m going to leave it. There are plenty of others and you could probably name a few off the top of your head. Cry Me A River, yes, and products of spiky personalities like Alanis Morrisette and Lily Allen, but the early Sixties was the goldmine.

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Letter to Brezhnev

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

This one from 1985 wasn’t a big hit but it’s good fun and features young Alfred Molina and Peter Firth who both went on to great things as they say became famous and respected that means. It’s set in Liverpool and at that time the whole UK was in a bad way and the north west was no different. So there was enough doom and gloom around and a little romantic comedy was just what we needed I guess that’s why it stayed with me cos it cheered me up a bit yes even happy go lucky me needs a pick me up sometimes if you no what I mean.

The girls in this certainly did they worked in a chicken processing factory stuffing the giblet bags into cavorties and stuff which can’t be much fun at the best of times. So you get two factory girls Teresa and Elaine (Margi Clarke and Alexandra Pigg) who both didn’t go on to greater things I never seen them in anything else but they do the job here.

Teresa is a tall mouthy blonde and Elaine is small and quiet. Anyway a Russian ship comes in (Liverpool is like a port) and our girls meet two sailors Sergei and Peter (that’s Alfred and Peter) in a nightclub and one thing leads to another very quickly and they end up in a hotel room. Teresa just wants sex because I guess she’s had every bloke in the city but Elaine is romantic they only got a few hours before the boys sail again so Teresa and Sergei get stuck in (litrely) but the other two just talk and fall in love which can happen that fast your just not sure until later that its real.

Cheer up girls, it’s only an economic downturn and the guy’s not married anyway

With all the doinking that goes on you’d think Teresa would be the sex symbol but my mate Chris reckons the most exciting part is seeing the hair in Alexandra Pigg’s armpit you no girls you wouldn’t be seen dead like that but theres blokes who like it it takes all salts.

And then the boys are gone and the girls come down to earth with a bump well Elaine does it meant something to her and she and Peter write to each other and she wants to go to Russia and marry him so she writes to President Brezhnev the podgy guy with thick eyebrows you know the one.

The British Foreign Office gets involved because Elaine is so determined and at the time Russia was a country it was hard to get into and when you were there they wouldn’t let you out something like that anyway I think its like North Korea is now real dodgy. And they tell her that Peter’s married but she don’t believe it. Nor does Teresa she says “I’ve had the knickers dragged off me by enough married men that I know one when I see one and Peter ain’t married.”

I mean imagine falling for someone in that situation its complicated enough when it’s the guy round the corner without politics and stuff getting in the way.

There’s a lot of bad language but its all in Liverpool accents so it don’t sound so bad they say fooken  but they say the k like the ch in Loch Ness I didn’t think of that myself like but I heard someone say it and its true.

Its quite funny and theres romantic bits and very sad bits and some very 80s music Hit That Perfect Beat and stuff to remind you when its set. I don’t know if Alfred and Peter think of it fondly as a stepping stone it ain’t exactly Shakespeare I guess though I never seen any of his films so I can’t really say.

 

The wisdom of pop songs – Regret

Having your heart broken is an unwanted part of life’s rich pageant, but there is another side to the coin: when we do the hurting. I’m not sure anyone has ever deliberately broken someone’s heart through stopping loving them. It’s just one of those things, although don’t try telling that to the person on the receiving end.

Breaking up with someone doesn’t make us a monster; it shows that we’re human, and what were we supposed to do: not fall in love in the first place? The more you look at it the more complicated it gets.

Prince gets straight to the heart of the matter in Purple Rain. “I never meant to cause you any sorrow…”

Cher, on the other hand, in If I Could Turn Back Time, has lost the guy through her own stupidity, so what she is regretting is the things she said and did.

John Lennon’s Jealous Guy hasn’t quite blown it altogether, but he’s singing to himself as much as his lover, regretting what he said and did and knowing that if there’s a next time it could be terminal.

At a glance you might think Bryan Adams’s Please Forgive Me is about a similar scenario, but closer inspection shows it’s not. In this case he’s apologizing for loving her so much, perhaps because she thinks his adoration is over the top and is stifling her. Sometimes you just can’t win.

John B. Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful evidently found himself in a regrettable position in 1966 when he wrote I Didn’t Want to Have to Do It. However, he’s not blaming himself entirely. He had to do it because one of them had to and, good hearted guy that he is, he elected to carry the can.

“Was a time when I thought our love could fly

And never never fall

Why should I suppose we were never really meant

To be close to each other at all.”

We’re not told the girl’s reaction, but he does tell us he knew she would end up crying, so presumably that’s what happened.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, on a song written of course by Smokey himself, are also not accepting unmitigated blame. Ooh Baby Baby wasn’t a hit in the UK and may have never even been released as a single there, but it just goes to show the charts don’t paint a comprehensive picture of the brilliant stuff that exists in other people’s record collections. I only discovered the song three or four years ago and I couldn’t believe it had eluded me for so long.

“Mistakes,” he says, “I know I made a few. But I’m only human: you’ve made mistakes too.”

Quite right too. We don’t know the ins and outs of it, but nobody’s perfect. Whether or not this is an admirable trait he’s displaying, I’m not sure, but he’s clearly crazy about the girl. About three months ago Ooh Baby Baby got stuck on repeat in my head and was with me for days. I was on the net for hours, searching for  a slightly different version I seemed to remember, but there isn’t one. It must have been just my imagination, if you’ll forgive the Smokey-inspired reference.

And then there’s the kind of regret to which there is no answer, no other way of doing it. It had to be done and that’s life. Sometimes the end of a relationship is like that.

Cue an absolute killer from one of this column’s favourites, Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, via the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and lyricist Normal Gimbel. How Insensitive sees the singer wishing she hadn’t broken the boy’s heart, but “what can one say when a love affair is over?” He must hate her; he must think she’s a heartless bitch, but really she had no option. The poor man’s loss is our gain, however (or perhaps girl, since Gimbel is a man). It doesn’t have to be autobiographical to strike a chilling chord in the listener’s heart.

Regret of a different but equally painful kind can be found in Cat’s In The Cradle, a 1974 hit for Harry Chapin. This is about a man who fails to find enough time for his young son and then, when he’s old and the boy is the one with a busy life, finds the tables are turned.

Chapin was something of a genius with lyrics, and regret was one of his themes. W.O.L.D., his other huge success, is the sad tale of a DJ who walked out on his family to follow his broadcasting career wherever the offers came from. Now he’s getting past it and he’s thinking he’d like to get back with his wife, but she has moved on.

It’s hard to see either of these songs as truly autobiographical, although they might have been visions of what he worried might happen, given the musician’s inevitable absences from home while touring. Sadly, he never had time to find out, because he died at the age of 39 in a car crash, possibly having had a heart attack that caused him to lose control.

As it happens, anyway, the lyrics were written by Chapin’s wife about her ex-husband’s relationship with his father. And if you didn’t want to know that because it spoils your personal memory of the song, well I’m sorry.

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Coogan’s Bluff

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

Ive talked about Clint Eastwood here before, a couple of times in fact and its not that I’m obsessed with him or nothing but he has made a lot of movies ain’t he and in different styles. So now I’m looking at my favourite non-cowboy one Coogan’s Bluff. I could of gone for Play Misty For Me cos that’s good too but Coogan’s is the one I always go back to.

Its about a law man in Arizona who takes time off from tracking villains in the desert to go to New York City to bring back this guy Jimmy Ringerman whose on the run. Clint plays Coogan who wears the old cowboy stuff pointy toed boots and  hat maybe a Stetson I don’t know. And people keep calling him Tex because he looks like he’s from Texas.

He gets ripped off by a taxi driver who takes him all round the houses to get where he’s going and Coogan spots that they pass Bloomingdales twice (big department store). And the guy charges him extra for luggage because he’s got this little briefcase with him.

Nice lines here: the guy on hotel reception charges him extra because he hasn’t got luggage and Coogan goes “there’s a taxi driver in this town that’d give you and argument”.

We know, Clint, it’s Arizona. But blimey, don’t you look young.

Coogan has no patience with the slower NY way of justice and just wants to get Ringerman without waiting for the court to authorise it so he pees off the detective he’s dealing with (Lee J. Cobb nice performance). And he meets a probation officer Julie played by Susan Clark who never really made it but must have been only inches away cos she’s good and really pretty. She just couldn’t get past actresses like Katharine Ross I guess still she done a few things.

And Ringerman’s girlfriend is this tiny little thing Linny Raven (Tisha Sterling) and she fancies Coogan and it’s like his duty in those days to doink her just because she’s there and he does and she tells Julie all about it.

This was 1968 and there was cycle delick music around then and the scenes in clubs and parties are full of weird music and stoned people.

There’s a motorbike chase which might a peel to some people blokes I guess but what I like about the film is its quite funny and Clint’s so cool.

I guess its just personal preference I know there’s nothing here that makes the film a mantelpiece but it’s a nice way to spend an hour and a half and that’s the name of the game as they say what game I don’t know the game of life maybe the game of what am I going to do tonight when I ain’t going out.

The wisdom of pop songs – Mr and Mrs

The idea of singing to a real person – or perhaps inventing a person and singing to them – but not in a boy-girl-I-love-you way can be effective. Anything that brings realism to art tends to give it credibility. In the case of pop music it can add a touch of originality by shifting the listener’s perspective.

Take, for example, Outkast’s Ms Jackson. He’s sorry, the singer is, for hurting Ms Jackson’s daughter, and I have always had this mental picture of him in Ms Jackson’s kitchen, having gone round there to apologise. The popular video actually shows her driving round to have it out with him, curlers in her hair and all. That’s one reason I would rather just listen to a song, rather than watch the video, because the visuals are just someone else’s interpretation.

I’m not putting that video up because I would like you to use your imagination.

The music borrows from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, the section known as The Bridal Chorus (and colloquially as Here Comes The Bride), which imparts a certain romantic air, and the song has a catchy hook; in fact you could say it consists largely of the hook, even if he does wander off down a lane of incomprehensible soulbrutha chuntering (and when I first  read the lyrics I had less sympathy for the guy because he’s whingeing – although some people might think he has a point. For me, finally watching the video was like wandering innocently into the wrong part of town and being confronted by gangsters).

Having set up in my own mind the image of being in the woman’s house, there is also the possibility that Ms Jackson is an attractive woman in her own right and that our penitent hero has noticed this. It wouldn’t be the first time a boy has fancied his girlfriend’s mother.

Again, the video takes a different view, casting Ms Jackson as the kind of old dragon no cool rapper would be interested in. So, sadly, the more I look into this song, the less it seems to be what I originally imagined, and would still like to imagine. Quite a moving little pop experience, though, if you keep other people’s images out of your head.

A similar kettle of fish (sorry, what a vile expression) exists in the very different Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, as sung in 1965 by Herman’s Hermits. Either despite or because of its self-consciously Manchester accent, this was a big hit in the USA, but it wasn’t originally released as a single in the UK. They loved our regional accents in the States, lapping up the Beatles’ pronunciation (thur instead of there and so on), and Davy Jones flew the Mancunian flag in The Monkees. Even now Americans talk of how they love a “British” accent, whatever that is.

This is one Mrs Brown’s lovely daughter: Polly Brown of Pickettywitch. Looks a bit Sheryl Crowish, doesn’t she?

The original version of Mrs Brown had been recorded a couple of years earlier by the actor Tom Courtenay for a TV play.

And even that isn’t the most interesting thing about the song, because you’ll never guess who wrote it. And I mean never, because without  some monstrous clues and guidance, surely no one would get anywhere near it.

Trevor Peacock.

Who? Not the stuttering villager in The Vicar of Dibley?

Yes, him.

And, as Barry Norman used to say, why not? Young people desperate to get into the entertainment field will try anything, and clearly Trevor had all-round talent.

Despite the accent giving it a slightly comic feel, the song is a poignant little thing. Again, the singer is addressing the mother, but in this case it’s the girl who has dumped him and he’s saying “tell her that I’m well and feeling fine” while secretly hoping Mrs Brown will shake her daughter by the shoulders and tell her not to be so stupid because he’s a nice boy and he’s crazy about her.

In the mid 70s Billy Paul brought us Me And Mrs Jones, about an extramarital affair which he wants to keep secret but has no intention of ending. It’s the sort of love song that requires us to either ignore or forgive the circumstances and just concentrate on the genuine love that’s going on there.

Brazenly borrowing the title, Amy Winehouse gave us a very different story on a track from her miraculously good album Back to Black. It’s hard to work out what she is really trying to tell us, but she and Mr Jones are apparently getting it on. Listeners of a sensitive disposition should prepare themselves at the start of every verse for the invented word “f***ery”, which can be translated as mischief, stupidity, treachery and probably many other things. She’s having a go at her man for making her miss the Slick Rick gig and thinking  that she didn’t love him when she did. And she’s not going to put him on the guest list for her own gig because he has had a lot of other women.

But is Mr Jones the object of her affections as well as her tirade? As is so often the case, we can’t be sure, because it’s just a pop song, with words being thrown at a vague subject and the main requirement being to fit the lines and rhyme where necessary rather than to make a cohesive story.

Jones is a popular name in songs, even cropping up in the Bee Gees’ highly unusual New York Mining Disaster 1941. “Have you seen my wife, Mr Jones?” one trapped miner says to another, presumably showing him a little black and white photograph. The song is nothing short of a triumph of craft over subject matter and shows the inventive side the Gibb brothers exercised before discovering that smartly tailored disco music and gimmicky falsetto singing could make them a thousand times more money.

Paul Simon hit a seam of pure gold when fashioning a song out of the 1967 film The Graduate. Anne Bancroft’s simmering older woman, Mrs Robinson, inspired Simon to one of his most enduring successes and to his credit he did it without resorting to sexual fantasizing, delving into her mind rather than her underwear to explore what made her as she was. Many years later George Michael would use Mrs. R’s “Would you like me to seduce you?” line in Too Funky.

The ultimate “cougar” before the term was even coined. Anne Bancroft seduces a generation

For me, though, even that brilliant musical psychoanalysis  is eclipsed by Simon’s song about an architect. So Long Frank Lloyd Wright is a beautiful piece of wistfulness reflecting on a friendship between two men. And it’s not even based on fact. Legend has it that Art Garfunkel challenged Simon to write a song and gave him the most unlikely subject matter, which the master turned into a hypnotic three minutes that makes the listener feel sad about something that not only they didn’t experience, but never happened.

So, with all due respect to the millions of songs that take liberties with our willingness to believe, once in a while somebody creates a song that is the equal of any poem by any celebrated man of words of any era.

It’s not just the song, of course: that is just the framework on which the layers of sound are added through  spellbinding production, and if you or I had a go at this one open-mic night there would be precious little magic in the air. But the recording as issued on the album Bridge Over Troubled Water is one that I would be very tempted to put in a time capsule for future generations or people from another planet to marvel at.

 

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Sideways

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

This 2004 film won loads of awards and it wins my award for the best film of 2004 not that I take much interest in the Oscar and all that it’s a load of old tosh ain’t it just fills a gap at a quiet time of year the year after things really happened. Its about the California wine country or about two old friends who go there for a sort of stag week people want more than a stag night or a hen night these days which I suppose is okay if you can afford it. The most I ever managed was two days in Bournemouth when my mate Mel got married and we was only supposed to be there one night only we got plastered and met some guys.

And that’s sort of what happens here. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is getting married to this girl from a wealthy family and he probly loves her you never really know do you but he wants to have a last fling before the handcuffs go on so he goes off to the wine country with his mate Miles (Paul Giamatti). Jack is this outgoing fun guy who is supposed to be an actor but all he’s getting is jobs doing voiceovers for radio commercials the kind where they spend half the time cramming the technical stuff into it as fast as they can. I suppose if your being sympathetic you could think he feels a bit of a failure and wants to cheer himself up. But the one who really needs cheering up is Miles whose a teacher but still trying to make it as a novelist and he’s depressed cos his ex has just got married again.

They meet a wine lover called Maya (Virginia Madsen) who Miles kind of knows and he doesn’t realize she fancies him but Jack being a bit of a lad knows these things and he spots it straightaway. But Miles is too shy and too down to make the most of it it’s a shame when that happens ain’t it girls because we have to show the stop sign a lot and when we give the green light its frustrating when the guy dosen’t respond.

Come on Milesy. Everyone knows what that look means.

Anyways Jack also meets a wine waitress or something called Stephanie (Sandra Oh who looks Vietnamese or something only she’s got a long face – seriously) who is more like him looking for a good time. But he dosen’t tell her he’s about to get married of course.

They go on a double date and end up back at Maya’s place and your just wishing Miles would realize he’s got it made but he’s too slow to catch a cold and although Jack and Stephanie get it on it ain’t very x-certificate in Miles and Maya’s pants.

Now we get to the part where I don’t know how much to let on without spoiling it but it don’t take much to realize Jack ain’t going to get away with it and sure enough Stephanie finds out and freaks out and belts him in the face with her motorbike helmet. Which leaves the problem of how to explain his smashed up face to his fiancée when he gets home.

Its good fun this one and you can take it a bit serious if you want but its still amusing and its kind of good quality I don’t know how else to describe it. If a young director did it with a young cast and aimed it at younger people it would be smutty and tasteless ooh listen to me I’m all classy in my old age.

Its extremely good put it like that and you feel glad you watched it cos its like having a good bottle of wine instead of some special offer crap from Afganistahn do they make wine there probly not its too dusty.

 

 

The wisdom of pop songs – O Caroline by Matching Mole

The way it goes in writing this blog is that sometimes I’m enjoying it so much and the ideas are coming so thick and fast that something slips through the net. And so it is that in this case I must apologise not just to you but to myself for omitting this beautiful, haunting song by Robert Wyatt.

Wyatt, for those who may have missed him throughout his long but low-key career, started out as the drummer with The Soft Machine, a jazz-rock band that emerged from Canterbury, England, in the late 1960s. Why is the city worth mentioning? Because it spawned a host of talent around that time and there was a cohesion to it all: musically sophisticated, jazzy and with an understated English eccentricity about the lyrics.

Names? Soft Machine, Caravan, Hatfield and the North among many. As for musicians, in addition to Wyatt, there was Kevin Ayers, Daevid Allen of Gong fame and Dave Stewart (not the Eurythmics one, but he had a couple of surprising hits with Barbara Gaskin). Those are the people you might have heard of, the tip of an iceberg of people who are musicians but not potential celebrities. If, like me, you spent a lot of time hanging around in record shops after school, you will recognize names such as Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, David Sinclair, Pip Pyle, Pye Hastings and Elton Dean.

Some of them are dead now, while others have made a career out of it without necessarily making much money.

As for Robert Wyatt, he overcame the adversity of being paralysed from the waist down after falling out of a fourth floor window at a party and has continued making music. His guileless, angelic voice has given a new twist to such pop hits as I’m a Believer and Yesterday Man, while his version of Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding gave the anti-war song (about building ships for the Falklands conflict) a poignant edge quite different from Costello’s own treatment.

This Caroline song is by Wyatt’s band Matching Mole (a literal French translation and wilful mispronounciation of Soft Machine). Listen to the first line: “David (Sinclair)’s on piano and I may play on a drum”, which leads into his reiteration to Caroline of his love and devotion, and the fact that they once expected to marry, but clearly things have changed. That girlfriend was Caroline Coon, an artist who briefly managed The Clash and who was also celebrated in The Stranglers song London Lady.

How did this song fail to be a hit when released as a single? Maybe it is possible for a record to be too good, too sophisticated to succeed.

The wisdom of pop songs – Caroline

With a sizeable part of the pop music canon devoted to songs about girls, their names inevitably crop up as the lovesick boys profess their undying devotion. And one name crops up a lot: Caroline. It’s not as if the world was full of Carolines, and it doesn’t rhyme with many things, but songwriters seem to like it.

So off we go on a journey that starts with Neil Diamond, whose Caroline of choice was apparently sweet (and he rhymes it with “inclined). So was Status Quo’s muse shortly afterwards, if a muse is somebody who inspires you to “really wanna make ya”).

The Beach Boys had already used the name for one of Brian Wilson’s trademark heartache ballads Caroline No, about a girl who has grown up too fast and left the boy trailing in her wake. It happens, Brian. But there’ll be another one along in a minute.

Former Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone’s breathy 1971 ode, Caroline Goodbye, was about a real girl who people of a certain age will know. Caroline Munro was Blunstone’s girlfriend, an aspiring actress who entranced a generation of  young men with her TV commercial appearances as the Lamb’s Navy Rum girl before graduating to film, notably in the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

Around the same time Lou Reed, under the influence of David Bowie but just before his breakthrough Transformer album, recorded Caroline Says, a prototype of Reed’s strange era when he attempted to be camp and which heralded songs such as Satellite of Love.

In the early 1990s an American heavy rock band called Concrete Blonde had an album called Bloodletting and from it issued the single Caroline, with vocals by Johnette Napolitano (a woman) and the most fluid guitar work in rock history by half man, half octopus James Mankey.

And then there was the late, lamented Kirsty MacColl, destined to be killed by a powerboat while swimming in Mexico. With MacColl’s knack of sounding like the rather naughty girl next door, her Caroline song deals with not wanting to see her friend because she feels guilty, having just  pinched her boyfriend.

Fleetwood Mac’s contribution comes on 1987’sTango In The Night. Caroline here is both “crazy” and “lazy”, which is nothing more than lazy writing, with Lindsey Buckingham having stumbled upon the art of sometimes making a hit through production rather than songwriting.

By coincidence, former Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan, many years after his introduction by Peter Green, had his own C-song, a typically dreamy piece of work by a man who was by all accounts (and presumably still is) intense and serious. If you’re heard His Fleetwood mac song Dragonfly you will recognize this one as being his.

In 2007 a slightly oddball English girl, Kate Nash, had a surprise hit with Caroline’s a Victim, which is refreshingly raw in the era of computer-smooth pop.

So that’s plenty of Carolines and it doesn’t even take into account the Carolinas ( James Taylor) and Caroles of this world (Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, Al Stewart on Modern Times, Neil Sedaka singing about Carole King and so on).

Not a bad tally for a name that originally, according to some sources, meant a follower of King Charles an certainly owes its start in life to versions of that male name (Karel in German, Karol in other languages). It just has a ring to it, I suppose, and like most things about pop songs, you shouldn’t think about it too much anyway.